MLB Power Rankings: A look at the best bets for a strong playoff push in the second half
We're taking a look at the five teams with the best chances of staying hot the rest of the way
Let's have a little fun and guess who is going to surge in the second half, because the Official Power Rankings are all about the fun and second-half surges happen. At the All-Star break last season, the Oakland Athletics were three games out of a playoff spot. They went 42-23 after the break and landed a wild card with ease. The Milwaukee Brewers were 2 1/2 games back of the Cubs at the break and went 41-24 after to steal the division in relatively-shocking fashion. Each of those teams had the best record in their respective leagues after the break.
In 2017, the Chicago Cubs were two games under .500 and 5 1/2 games out of first at the break and went 49-25 in the second half to win the NL Central rather comfortably. Who could forget the Indians' hot streak?
I'm zeroing in on five teams this season that are going to be white hot the rest of the way.
How many times did I already mention the Cubs? This is just what they do under Joe Maddon. I mentioned it last week, but in Maddon's tenure they've played at a 105-win, 162-game pace in the second half. They are 7-2 thus far this year.
This is rather common for the A's, too. They did it last year and are now 28-13 since June 2. Oakland faces a pivotal series against Houston this week that could close the division gap. For now, A's fans, enjoy their ascent into the top five.
I also mentioned the Indians. I'd say their rock bottom moment was losing back-to-back games to the Orioles, 13-0 each. Since then, they've gone 13-3 and have climbed from -- at one point -- 11 back of the Twins to just two. It's hard to see them selling at all now, let alone Brad Hand. Maybe they'll buy a bat, but there's something to consider. Jose Ramirez looked like he was in the midst of a lost season, but he's hitting .329/.370/.624 with eight doubles, a triple and five homers in his last 22 games. If he's back, that's like adding a superstar for a replacement-level player with how he was going.
My shot in the dark is the Cardinals. They have so many players underperforming offensively that I have to believe some of them will start clicking and it starts with Paul Goldschmidt. He's 31 and that's likely too early for age-related decline. He had a slow start last year but once his average dipped below .200 he went through a 47 game stretch where he hit .359/.449/.701 with 16 homers. That can help carry an offense and some players might feel like it's contagious and get it going.
Finally, I think the Red Sox have a run in them. Sure, at times things seem off -- and the timing of this is particularly terrible with them having just lost a series to the Orioles -- but there's just so much talent here and I can't help but think about the 2017 Cubs. They were the last team we saw go through the so-called "World Series hangover" and they were outstanding in the second half. The Red Sox have enough talent to go on a heater where they win something like 15 of 20 games and if that happens, they are in playoff position. If they get to the wild card game, it's Chris Sale and you have to like their chances.
|1||Yankees||They haven't lost a series since June 7-9.||1||83-44|
|2||Dodgers||Here's where I am with the top two spots. These two teams are so even for me that I demoted the Dodgers for splitting a series in Philadelphia. The Yankees won both of their series this week. It's that close. As I've previously said, I wouldn't argue if someone wanted to flip them. Consider them 1A. and 1B.||1||83-44|
|3||Astros||Among everything else he's doing that is impressive, perhaps the most impressive thing about Michael Brantley is that only David Fletcher strikes out in a fewer percentage of plate appearances. Brantley has struck out just 39 times in 407 plate appearances.||1||81-47|
|4||Athletics||I've previously said Ramon Laureano is one of the most fun players in the league to watch on defense but he's also in a breakout campaign offensively.||3||72-53|
|5||Twins||Boy, they really needed that comeback win after trying to blow the game on Sunday. They were in danger of seeing the lead shrink to two games.||2||77-50|
|6||Indians||The emergence of Jordan Luplow and Oscar Mercado has really solidified the offense, but I still like Hunter Pence as a good fit here ahead of the deadline.||2||74-53|
|7||Braves||Only three Braves have gone 20-20 (HR-SB) in a season since the turn of the century and 21-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of them.||2||76-52|
|8||Cubs||Yu Darvish's last nine starts: 3.50 ERA, 59 K, 12 BB, 54 IP. His last two? Twelve scoreless innings, four hits, one walk, 15 strikeouts.||1||68-58|
|9||Rays||Rough week and the Rays are now out of playoff position for the first time in a long time.||3||74-54|
|10||Nationals||Remember when Mike Rizzo traded for two relievers at once to get Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle? Expect something similar this deadline.||1||69-57|
|11||Brewers||Back on track? The Brewers have won five of their last six games and are surely eyeing the series against the Cubs in Miller Park next weekend.||5||65-62|
|12||Red Sox||Losing a series to the Orioles is tough to do, but the Red Sox pulled it off.||--||67-61|
|13||Phillies||Splitting with the Dodgers and winning a series over the Pirates is a good week. This coming week, they get two against the hapless Tigers and then open a big nine-game homestand against the Braves (opportunity to chip away) before playing two weaker teams in the Giants and White Sox. The Phillies still have time to make a run at the division and that time starts right now.||--||66-60|
|14||Cardinals||I swore I'd never seen anything like what happened Friday night, when the Cardinals were down 7-0 and scored 10 runs in top of the sixth. I was close. That type of comeback hadn't happened since 1987.||1||67-58|
|15||Angels||I mentioned Fletcher in the Astros comment and he's having a sneaky-good season. He never strikes out and is hitting .292 with a .353 on-base percentage. That's a nice leadoff man and he'll score plenty in front of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.||1||63-67|
|16||Diamondbacks||Zack Greinke's pretty under-appreciated, nationally, isn't he? In looking at his baseball-reference.com statistical similars through age 34, the top three are Justin Verlander, Dwight Gooden and Mike Mussina.||1||64-64|
|17||Rangers||I understand why teams are all over Mike Minor but if I'm Jon Daniels, the price is sky-high. There's a very reasonable road to contention next season and he can front the rotation again.||7||63-65|
|18||Giants||I'm speechless. I am without speech.||3||63-64|
|19||Padres||The Padres have won just five games out of their last 17 and somehow three of those were against the Dodgers.||1||59-67|
|20||Pirates||The Bucs won five of seven heading into the break against the Cubs and Brewers, but they've thrown all that momentum away. They're 2-7 since the break and moving into "sell" territory.||1||52-74|
|21||Rockies||The Rockies started the season 3-12 and somehow clawed their way back into contention. They're now 3-12 in July. Do good teams have two different stretches where they lost 12 of 15?||1||58-69|
|22||Mets||Great. People are going to wrongly blame the Home Run Derby for Pete Alonso's slump.||2||66-60|
|23||White Sox||Yoan Moncada isn't a future star. He's a star.||--||57-69|
|24||Reds||Last week I challenged the Reds to show us what they're made of. They went 2-5. Message received.||2||60-66|
|25||Blue Jays||Look at Lourdes Gurriel, man. He's slugging .600 and hitting a home run every 13.3 at-bats.||2||52-76|
|26||Mariners||On July 12, Mike Leake allowed seven runs on eight hits in 2/3 of an inning against the Angels. On July 19, Mike Leake took a perfect game to the ninth and worked a one-hit shutout against the same Angels. Baseball, man.||1||54-74|
|27||Royals||Sure, they swept the White Sox in four games, but they couldn't have done that if Tim Anderson was active.||1||45-82|
|28||Marlins||Righty Jordan Yamamoto, who the Marlins got in the Christian Yelich trade, was 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 0.94 WHIP through his first six career starts. He was bludgeoned in Dodger Stadium Sunday, but it's still been a promising start.||2||45-80|
|29||Orioles||I wonder what they could get for Trey Mancini? He's under team control through 2022, so they'll likely keep him, but he'll be in his 30s before they are ready to contend. It wouldn't hurt to float his name out there.||1||41-86|
|30||Tigers||Nick Castellanos is turning it on at the right time to be dealt to a contender. In his last 27 games, he's hitting .346/.412/.579with 13 doubles, four homers and 12 RBI. He hit a walkoff bomb Sunday, too.||1||38-86|
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